Gratitude comes in many forms. It can be demonstrated by being a good listener and an empathetic friend, by caring about others. We also demonstrate gratitude to society and life in general by doing volunteer work and/or giving to charity. We show our gratitude by respecting others. And although we are primarily a secular society, gratitude also may be expressed through contemplation or prayer.
There are many things in life for which I am grateful: foremost are family and friends, love and good health. I appreciate our great neighbors, and all of the beautiful families, children and pets that live on our block. In a recent post on social media, one neighbor posted the old saying, “red sky tonight, sailor’s delight,” along with a photo of a bright red sunset, similar to the view from my home that evening. The daily view of the sunrise and sunset between the pale blue-grey waters of the Bay and the bright sparkle of the Pacific Ocean are both humbling and awesome.
Gratitude reflects the joy of living in a beautiful city, where good books, a fulfilling profession, good friends, leisure time, wholesome and delicious food, wonderful colleagues, and natural beauty, including stunning vistas and nearby bucolic countryside, surround us. I am grateful to live in a country with free press.
Such pleasures, however, cannot be taken for granted. Daily urban challenges such as traffic density and congestion, late or non-appearing busses, high rents and home values, and income disparity take their toll on the health of the city. Sometimes we lose good friends or family members due to illness or other causes.
In addition to personal losses and challenges, there are times when terrible things happen in the world – drawing on this month’s headlines, a terrorist attack on innocent people in Paris; the arrest, sham trial and imprisonment of Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian; the bombing of a Russian passenger plane; an attack on a hotel in Mali; refugees fleeing their war torn countries at great risk to themselves; environmental degradation; lockdown in Brussels; the list goes on and on. We cannot be but deeply affected and saddened by these international tragedies.
Knowing that there is always risk and loss in the world makes it all the more imperative that we appreciate our time here, and view each new day with the gratitude that it deserves. We must support our neighbors and fellow human beings when tragedy falls. We must be resilient, both in our planning efforts, as well as in our reactions to life’s setbacks.
Thanksgiving is a time to remember those who once gathered at the table who are no longer with us, and to give thanks for the enduring friendships and the love of family that continue to bring blessings to life. And as we give thanks for our bounty, let us acknowledge, appreciate and support those less fortunate.
In memory of friend and colleague Richard Walsh, 1947 – 2015. Rest in Peace.